After announcing last month that it would issue refunds to millions of customers who were charged for data sessions that they launched inadvertently or did not initiate, Verizon Wireless has settled a related FCC investigation into the matter by signing a consent decree under which the company agreed to pay $25 million to the U.S. Treasury. According to FCC Enforcement Bureau Chief Michelle Ellison, the $25 million payment is the largest ever assessed under a consent decree in the FCC’s history. That decree also requires Verizon to dole out a minimum of $52.8 million in refunds (with most affected customers to receive between $2 and $6) to correct “mystery fee” charges of $1.99 that began appearing on the bills of “pay-as-you-go” subscribers in November 2007. FCC investigators found that 15 million such customers who did not subscribe to data plans were charged erroneously for (1) unauthorized data transfers that were initiated automatically by game and other software applications built into their wireless handsets, (2) accessing certain web sites (including the Verizon Wireless Mobile Web homepage) that were designated as free-of-charge, (3) unsuccessful attempts to access data where there was insufficient network coverage to complete data transfers, and (4) unwanted data transfers initiated by third parties. As part of the settlement, Verizon has promised to undertake various customer service and technical improvements and establish a data charge task force that will report regularly to the FCC while monitoring data charge complaints and other data charge issues. The FCC also noted that customers who believe they were charged erroneously but do not receive a refund have the right to appeal and to have their complaint resolved within 30 days. Maintaining, “we are a company that listens to its customers,” a Verizon spokesman stressed that his company would comply with the settlement “because it is the right thing to do.”